First Bites: Three New Spots at The Piazza at Schmidts

Developer Bart Blatstein’s ginormous retail/residential project The Piazza at Schmidts is up and running on 2nd Street a block south of Girard, right across from his other project, Liberties Walk. Four restaurants are planned, three of which are already open. So we ran up (OK, took a cab) to NoLibs to get the scoop on the eats.

Darling’s Diner
The Scene: Darling’s has all the best parts of the diner — waitresses who call you hon, a mouthwatering display of cheesecakes, and big, comfy booths — but in a mid-century modern, colorful, and just plain cool design with flat screens.
The Eats/Drinks: Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night are ambitious hours, but it gives cooks time to make things from scratch. Cases in point: those sinful cheesecakes (or shall we say, Best of Philly-winning cheesecakes), breads, and some kick-ass pierogies.
The Verdict: After our quick meal here, we like the idea of having a something-for-everyone eatery in this part of town.
The Details: 267-239-5790; darlingscheesecake.com
(Photo by Hannan Saleh)
 

Vino
The Scene: Dark and moody, this wine-focused spot isn’t just all about the bar: There are plenty of tables for big groups, loungy areas, and 60 outdoor seats. Vino gets its goth touches from weathered chandeliers and a washed cement floor (even though the place still smells brand-spanking new.)
The Eats/Drinks: There are more 50 international (with a heavy focus on Italian) wines by the glass here, kept at a nice temps, but true grape groupies may be disappointed. There are also beers on tap. Personalized pizzas have a doughy crust, and there are lots of items to snack on, like cheese, sausage-stuffed olives, and calamari.
The Verdict: A great, lively place to catch up with a large group and fill up on snacks, but super-serious pizza- and wine-lovers may not be impressed.
The Details: 215-923-2014.
 

The Swift Half
The Scene: From the people who brought us beloved Good Dog bar, the Piazza’s gastropub has outdoor seating offering a clear view of the oversized Piazza screen (it plays, for one, Phillies games) and the live-music stage. The inside feels slightly cafeteria-like, but the glass door wall that opens makes even inside seats feel breezy.
The Eats/Drinks: Good tapped brews and a small but solid menu. The cheese and meat offerings were good enough and the lamb lollipops were outstanding, as was the whole grilled bronzino special and grilled asparagus. A note on the menu says more food is coming soon.
The Verdict: Our love for all things gastro aside, this was our favorite spot of the trio.
The Details: 215-923-4600, swifthalfpub.com

Note: P.Y.T. is a burger bar/lounge that’s about a month away from opening. We’ll let ya know when it does. Fine, twist our arm — we’ll check it out for you too.